Thanks to a new set of rules at the state Medicaid agency, single moms in South Carolina will have one less barrier when it comes to enrolling: They’ll no longer have to provide a court order showing they’re getting child support from an estranged spouse.

Here’s how the rules used to operate: Let’s say you’re a single mom without health insurance who went through a messy divorce, but you’ve been getting child support through an informal agreement with your ex. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough money — maybe $600 a month. Sometimes the ex even chips in for emergencies when you ask. But even with that money, you can’t afford private health insurance. You realize you’re eligible for Medicaid, but you need that court order, and there’s a downside to getting one. One, you really don’t want to go back to a courtroom and risk setting off the ex. Even worse, you could even up with getting less money per month. As a result, some single moms might not seek the Medicaid benefits even though they qualify.

The rule change removes the court-order barrier. “It gets moms coverage, and a healthy mom is going to do a much better job of taking care of her kids,” says Shellie Quenga, program director for the Palmetto Project which helps connect the uninsured with health coverage.

S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center director Sue Berkowtiz, an advocate for the low-income community, agrees, calling the court order requirement an extra burden. “You want to look at what’s in the best interest of the child,” she says. 

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